Today we pause from reading acts to start reading Galatians; specifically, Galatians 1.
I should have had us read Acts 15 first before we turned to Galatians, but it’s too late to fix that now. Although Galatians was not written at this point in the story of Acts, Galatians 1 describes Paul’s life before he became a Christian (vv. 11-14) and his early Christian life (vv. 15-24). The events of Galatians 2 are described either back in Acts 11:30 or in Acts 15 so that’s why we’ll read Galatians now before going further in Acts.
Here in Galatians 1, Paul expressed his surprise at how quickly the believers in the region called Galatia were turning to a perversion of the gospel instead of the true gospel Paul brought to them. We’ll learn more about this perversion of the gospel in the days ahead but for now it is important to know that it was an attempt to blend Judaism with Christianity and impose that blend on the Gentile believers.
Paul knew Judaism quite well which is why he began addressing this problem with his own religious resume as an enthusiastic Jewish Pharisee (vv. 13-14). In order to highlight the difference between the Judaism he was raised in and lived under and the gospel, Paul reminded the church “that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (vv. 11-12). Instead of seeing his faith in Christ as an extension of his Judaism, Paul saw it as a complete conversion. Once he was “…was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (v. 14b) and then God chose “to reveal his Son in me” (v. 16a). Anyone who attempts to blend the Christian faith with Judaism, then, has misunderstood and mischaracterized the Christian faith.
The lesson for us is to be careful with the gospel–understand it well and guard it from corruption. There are all kinds of ways in which Satan would love to corrupt the gospel. Most of them, however, add human works to faith in one way or another. These might be Jewish traditions or they might be some other kind of religious actions. The scriptures remind us in this chapter that the gospel is God’s good news; it is not ours to modify. Modifying the gospel changes it into “a different gospel” (v. 6b) which means it isn’t good news at all (v. 7a).
Most people dislike conflict but within your friends and neighbors there are likely many different religious practices including some that claim to be “Christian.” You may love your friends and neighbors and desire to be accepted and fit in among them but don’t change the message of salvation in Christ in order to extend acceptance to them or to be accepted by them.